Gratitude and Relief

Before you ….
I do not like to think about that time.

The lack of touch.
Spirit withdrawing into a protective shell.

It was a mix of intentional
and unintentional.

Frugal courage.
The emotional safety of a small life.

The joy of no expectations but my own.
Self-set boundaries.

But the death of sharing took a toll.
That was my only self-inflicted wound.

The other scars
explain why I lived this way for so long.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Free of Small Town America

At the end of everything
a streetlamp goes out
and Narnia darkens.

The grass around the streetlamp
remains green for a time
until it browns and withers.

That is if everything is real.

If it is of the imagination
it will spring back to life
pretty much as it departed.

I cupped a cricket in my hands then let it go.

I gave up TV for miniature toy soldiers
where wars take place
on a scenic table top.

It is the closest I will come
to being god
as I shape the scenery

placing trees one by one into woods

micro managing
which pasture a couple of cows graze
and how loud

the war will be this time.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Beautiful Face

When it is
the next door neighbor’s child
who ends up in the cemetery
while your child made it home safe
from the school yard shooting
you find a thousand reasons
to kiss them and say I love you
then make a big fuss
about holding their hand
on the ferry that crosses the sound
on your way to visit the art museum.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Long Term Strain of Abuse

Lori does not know her heart
wishes to be called by a different name.

Her heart is at the point of rebellion.

Lori passes off the irregular beats as stress
since the world is a difficult place.

Her heart begins to distrust her body.

It sees plots and conspiracies
in every grain of sugar and gram of carbohydrates.

They both call for more time in the sun.

A beach with sand squishing between toes
and vitamins produced as ultra white skin browns or reddens.

That brings up the current disagreement: sunscreen.

Lori appreciates that if her heart implements full scale rebellion
large swaths of memory will vanish.

She is pleased at the idea of relearning the world.

Especially simple things like laughter
and the smell of pine bark when she presses her face into it.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Each word wounds you.
Boys being boys inflict pain.
First day to last day.

When you sleep the word
tumbles through your brain
doing more damage.

You tried disappearing
firing back
and standing mute.

It did not change your status
as victim, even though
you never played the race card.

Ten, twenty years on and still
nightmares catch your breath
and wake you gasping.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Shoeless Joe

Paul unpacked his dreams
in the wrong language.

His fear of not being understood
fumbled away all the umlauts.

Now refugees, his dreams
wandered into other people’s sleep.

Immigration services refused to find his dreams.
Paul cried into his hands.

His damp hands smeared the paperwork.
Reduced the number of pills in the prescribed bottle.

Far too few pills to sleep once.
No where near enough to meet his ancestors.

On the way home, Paul drove by
one of his dreams sitting at the bus stop.

His solitary dream refused to enter his car
for a ride home.

It claimed to be in the process of self actualization
with a bus ticket to Dyersville, Iowa.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Note: Dyersville, Iowa is the town nearest to the Field of Dreams site.

Out of Mama’s House

A loop born of suffering
ties a family together.

Bless the baby girl
even though the parents wanted boys.

Dissatisfaction is a worn t-shirt
printed not good enough in sparkles.

Her community of voices
raises hope inside the cranium.

The obsessive daydream conversations
of a better life

dissociate and project her spirit
then body beyond the binding loop.

And away long before university
not to join a circus troupe.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Once there was.
And once there was not.

Hand. Wrist. Arm. Nub.
Myth of grasp.

All those stitches for naught.
Gangrene’s steady march.

Brain to action to loss.
Kicking. Screaming. Numb.

Draped in helplessness.
Corner sitter.

Exotic mark
on sexual check box list.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Work or Pleasure

The past stared out of Lori’s mirror.
Her eyes absorbed the past’s reflection.
She mistakenly thought PU the mirror image of UP.

She felt the pull of the past
as if it was a river slowly tugging on her—
a broken tree limb with leaves dangling into the water.

In this pulling, she located a song.
Lori sang of longing.
Aloud. To no one.

She sang the river cutting a gorge
through the landscape—
a deep escarpment without crossing.

The alphabet of hope resided on the far side.
A speed ramp for a running-jump attempt on her side.
She stood barefoot in the center of a prickly pear patch.

The song faltered like lemon squeezed in her mouth.
Her veins blued closer to the skin.
She released a held breath.

She examined the skin of her cheeks, below her eyes.
The endless washing seemed a disaster.
Suddenly she was not sure which twilight colored the window.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney